White House Calligraphy Office


I stumbled upon this video from the inflammatory article published earlier this year about how much the presidential calligraphers earn each year. While they may make more money than most of us, the skills they have are unquestionable.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I think this classic hand lettering skill should be preserved especially when its done for the President for State Dinners and other official events.I can’t imagine getting an invitation to dinner at the White House whipped out on someone’s ink jet printer, can you?

I spoke with a friend who works as a professional calligrapher (not at the White House) who said that the team that the team that work at the White House work under intense pressure, often having to letter 200+ place cards in a day or two for an official event. They also work with very strict expectations for the style of calligraphy they do. the whole office is staffed by one chief calligrapher and two deputy calligraphers — a total staff of three.

I think its worth whatever these folks are being paid. That being said, Politifact did their homework and the calligraphers salary is not so disproportionate to other staffers with uniquely specialized skills (the Social Secretary makes $118K).


In the video, you can see one of the calligraphers (a left-hander!) working on a certificate. He is a third generation White House employee. Watch the video for details.

Do you think the White House should continue to employ calligraphers?

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11 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Reblogged this on Brittius.com and commented:
    Magnificent art that is a part of our nation’s heritage and must be retained. Calligraphy is nice, but I am partial to the appearances of Copperplate, work performed with flex nibs. Their skills and talents are a worthy investment for the US taxpayers. In fact, that office is a bit forlorn and should have natural wood floors, windows, and office furniture, maybe pumpkin colored walls and old high ceiling. That would look like the digs of Calligraphers. How about a small wood burning stove?

  2. YES! The White House should continue to employ calligraphers! My husband and I received an invitation from Bill Clinton to one of the celebration balls. We could not attend, but we still have the invitation. It is fabulous. And obviously perfectly hand lettered. I am very happy the White House still believes this is important.

  3. Thanks for sharing such a fascinating video – and I definitely agree that the art of the hand-written should be preserved, and the tradition continued. There is NO substitute for the work of a skilled calligrapher. Period. It always saddens me to read about the end of teaching cursive writing, etc. I hate to think that handwriting will become another lost art.

    Thanks so much for sharing. As for the compensation, I can only think it is priceless.

  4. I feel like this represents the last vestiges of polite society in our culture. We should preserve it for sure. Their work is beautiful and show a deep sign of respect to the invited guests. I think of all the fine traditions the British keep, including royal embroiders who make and restore garments and decorative pieces. It’s like little stitches holding the past and present together, and keeping civil society alive.

  5. Wow, cool video and I appreciate the share. I knew this team existed but the inside look was really fascinating. I hope the government will keep it active. I agree it is part of our heritage and tells other countries that we are REAL.

  6. I was wondering , i am a calligrapher and have been doing Calligraphy for 45 years. I originally learned from Byron McDonalds class in 1975 at the California College of the Arts, In Oakland,ca. I was wondering if there were any remote jobs for Calligraphy , maybe when you et swamped with work?
    Pease reply, I am retire U,S, Air Force and live in San Bernardino, CA. I sit here and wonder that all my talents are going to waist! I can do Old english from memory freehand with or without a pen.

    1. Daivd: I am not sure the best way to go about finding freelance remote calligraphy work other than to (1) start an Instragram account with images of your calligraphy work, (2) build an online website portfolio with additional images, contact info, resume, etc and (3) create a LinkedIn profile promoting your availability, skills and history. Link all these accounts to one another.

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